Tony Estanguet: “The time has come to organize the Olympic Games in Paris”

A triple Olympic canoeing champion, Tony Estanguet is now co-chairman of the committee overseeing the Paris bid for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024. He discusses the philosophy and strengths of the Paris bid with Succeed Magazine.

Succeed: On 13 September 2017 in Lima, the International Olympic Committee will designate the host city of the 2024 Summer Olympics. Still a year away from the moment of truth, do you feel pressure comparable to your former life as an athlete?

Tony Estanguet: Definitely, there are real similarities in approaching this race:, preparation, competition, teamwork, adrenaline… One must be attentive to all the little details that can make the big difference. It is a real competition. In fact, that’s what ignited my interest in this campaign from the beginning. I personally feel that it’s a challenge akin to representing your country at the Olympic Games.

Apart from the mandatory wearing of a suit and tie, there is at least one big difference between your two “lives”: now you lead a team whereas you used to practice an individual sport…

A solitary athlete has no chance of picking up an Olympic title on their own. It’s true that at the beginning of a season of competition, I was all alone. However, a large team accompanied me during months of preparation to help me work on my physical form, techniques and mental attitude, as well as my relationships with partners and the media. As part of the Paris 2024 Bid Committee, it is often the same. There’s a target that must be reached that involves both the collective dynamics of the team and the expertise of each individual. Everyone must give the very best of themselves in order to make the key difference together.

As an athlete, you have the reputation of never being satisfied. Do you apply the same perfectionism in your position as co-chair of the bid committee?

A leopard cannot change its spots! Together with Bernard Lapasset, our co-chair role specifically involves inspiring the team to push the bar a little bit further. When I was an athlete, I had this ability to challenge myself, even when everything was going well. Today, Paris 2024 enjoys genuine public enthusiasm, strong political support and an excellent bid plan. However, we must continue to make progress because victory will be won on the details. I am convinced that the time has come to organize the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

Let’s talk about this bid in greater detail… If you were forced to retain only one asset, can you name the major advantage enjoyed by Paris 2024 that will secure the win?

It’s not an easy question because my work consists precisely in identifying as many strengths as possible! If I really had to retain just one asset, I would choose experience. A real tradition exists between the Olympic Movement and France, including the legacy of Baron Pierre de Coubertin – who first brought to life the idea of a better world through sport – and the last Paris Games of 1924.

France is also excelling in elite sport. In Rio, the French athlete delegation consisted of close to 400 of which 42 of them won medals. We can also be trusted on to deliver major, global sports events, including the Tour de France, Roland Garros, EURO 2016, the various world championships and even COP21.

Why is this experience so important?

Paris 2024 is a unique opportunity to return Olympic sport and the values of the Games to the heart of our city and its people. With our new sports facilities and programmes in the inner city, Paris is ideally placed to help its communities make sport truly a way of life. Our aim is to present an Olympic and Paralympic project that works in total harmony with our city’s and nation’s long-term sports, economic, social and environmental strategies.

The 2024 Olympic Games must serve as a pretext for societal progress in key areas such as education, health and accessibility. The Games should not be reserved for the elite – like the Fan Zone concept during the UEFA Euro 2016, we want to spread the Olympic spirit throughout the country and outside the stadiums.

The slogan for Paris 2024 is “the power of a dream”. What venues in the Paris bid would inspire any athlete to dream?

beach-volley-succeed-paris-region  The Paris 2024 venues promise to be absolutetly spectacular. I’m thinking of the Palace of Versailles for equestrian, the Invalides for archery, the Grand Palais for fencing and taekwondo, the Champ de Mars for beach volleyball and triathlon, and the Champs Elysées for road cycling and the marathon. These competition venues demonstrate the incredible heritage and stunning scenery of Paris and the wider region. The rest of France will also have the opportunity to host Olympic sport with the sailing events taking place along the majestic coastline of Marseille and football being hosted in cities around the country.

On perusing your project, we can see that sports venues are sited throughout the Paris Region. Was involving the whole region one of your original goals?

Our initial idea was to make our bid sustainable and make use of our world class sports venues that already exist. So we decided to capitalize on existing venues first, basing the bid on operational and celebrated sites such as. Stade de France, Roland Garros and Vélodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines… If our bid is successful, only two major facilities will need to be built: the Olympic and Paralympic Village (Pleyel-Bords de Seine) and the aquatic center (Saint-Denis). In both cases, we are proposing truly eco-responsible projects that respond to needs in the area and will remain useful to society after 2024. Of course, it also helps that these wonderful venues do encompass the whole of Paris region meaning more people can enjoy the magic of the Games.

As it happens, sustainable development is another key factor of the bid. What are Paris 2024’s pledges on this subject?

I am former member of the IOC environment commission and I also practiced an outdoor sport for 20 years. I’m automatically very sympathetic to this issue! For France, it’s also about building on the measures proposed by and the legacy of COP21. So in concrete terms, first of all, we are making a strong commitment to prioritizing existing sites. We are also planning specific work on energy, water and foodand to assist us with such actions, we signed a partnership with WWF France and its President, Isabelle Autissier who will chair the Paris 2024 Environmental Excellence Committee created by us. This NGO will make a big difference to our bid and,sustainable development will be remain at the forefront of our project right through to election day and beyond.

The Paralympic Games will follow the Olympic Games in 2024. What are the strengths of the Paris bid here?

At the last two Olympic Games in London and Sochi, we saw large growth in the Paralympic Games. There was real public appetite for these competitions, especially the Paralympic Games in 2012. They have left a solid legacy in the city of London in terms of sport and general accessibility and we believe that a Paralympic Games in Paris can have a similar effect. Within the bid committee, we have recruited a strong team that works specifically on developing our Paralympic plan. We do not just want to organize a successful and memorable Paralympic Games, but we also want to be a creative force that helps to change attitudes and perceptions in this area.

As we said at the start of the interview, the selection of the host city will be announced in a little less than a year. What will be your role between now and then?

Everything will gain momentum until the big day on 13 September 2017. By then, we will pass through three major stages: the submission of the second part of the IOC Candidature File in October, then the delivery of Candidature File number three in February, and finally the IOC evaluation visit to Paris in the spring of 2017. France also has a packed sporting calendar in 2016-2017 with the nation hosting world championships in handball, wrestling, canoeing and kayaking. Ahead of the decision in Lima, we will continue to promote our sustainable Games plan and show that France is open and ready host to the world. The coming year promises to be intense and exciting. Hopefully, it will conclude with a fine win in Lima a year from now.


Tony Estanguet in six dates

1978: Birth in Pau
2000: Olympic Canoeing Champion (C1) in Sydney
2004: Olympic Canoeing Champion (C1) in Athens
2008: Flag bearer of France’s Olympic team
2012: Olympic Canoeing Champion (C1) in London
2015: Co-chair, together with Bernard Lapasset, of the Paris 2024 Bid Committee

Paris 2024 in numbers

» 6.2 billion euros, including 1.5 billion euros of public investment: the estimated budget for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris
» 36 Olympic venues
» 17,000 beds planned for the future Olympic Village at Pleyel – Bords de Seine
» 30 minutes: maximum journey time for 85% of athletes
» Three other cities presenting bids: Los Angeles, Rome, Budapest